Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock and Roll

Sam Gournay 30/05/2005

Rating: 5/5

Unless you've been living under a rock, the name Art Brut should ring a bell. It must be said that Art Brut are a band who are often misunderstood. Whilst it might be easy for one to dismiss this New Cross five-piece as a 'joke band', you'd be missing out on something rather special if you did. They've got the songs, the spikey guitar riffs (courtesy of guitarists Chris Chinchilla and Ian Catskilkin), the energetic, outspoken frontman, the sing-along choruses and a booming presence both on and off stage. The band's most distinctive attribute is their sound, which comprises of spoken word (and screaming) over indie-rock arrangements. On paper, it would seem as though this band shouldn't work, but somehow, they pull through stunningly. Vocalist Eddie Argos' style is a little Jarvis Cocker, but his lyrics aren't kitchen sink enough, and all of the songs are completely absent of even the slightest bit of singing, since Argos himself cannot sing a single note; but having said that, Eddie is no Mike Skinner either, his lyrics are wittier and manage to pack in more humour, yet not because they're gimmicky. Coming out amidst a riotous flush of new, over-hyped indie bands, 'Bang Bang Rock and Roll' not only looks like it's going to be a survivor of this 'new' new wave, but it also seems to be the antidote to the hordes of NME-featured Jam rip-offs.

After three singles and extensive gigging, the band's colourful art-rock is finally unleashed here in these twelve songs, wherein all of the previously released singles (and their b-sides respectively) have been re-recorded, with more clarity and overall oomph than before. Opener 'Formed A Band', the group's first single, released last year, and gaining the post of NME single of the week, starts from a scratchy and suppressed muted guitar riff before soon bursting into a full band chant, “Formed a band, we formed a band, look at us, we formed a band!”, seemingly repetitive in the chorus, but extremely direct during the verses in establishing with the listener the band's aims; the point of most importance being their desire to play on Top of the Pops. Eddie Argos' honesty is displayed in the song's first verse, “and yes - this is my singing voice, it's not irony, it's not rock and roll, we're just talking to the kids” he exclaims. This is a point not to be taken lightly; this man means business, as do the band backing him, and this line confirms that they are absent of all of the pretensions too many bands today possess.

There's something extremely cohesive to 'Bang Bang Rock and Roll', and this cohesive element remains throughout as the band effortlessly glides from song to song. Argos' lyrics address the listener so very directly; on 'My Little Brother', the story of a troubled family member, of which, the closing warning given is to “stay off the crack”, certainly an alternative to the current rock scene. Similarly on the title track, he requests for there to be “no more songs about sex and drugs and rock and roll, its BORING”. It is in this song that we receive an explanation for why Art Brut don't fit into any recent movement; the truth is they've started their own by starting an uprising against the current scene, and the band's influence has indeed already been felt in their 'form a band' motto which has kickstarted a long roster of Art Brut-flavoured bands. Perhaps the band's tread on new-territory is best summed up in the opening line of 'Bad Weekend', “haven't read the NME in so long, don't know what, genre we belong”.

Somehow, not every song is an upbeat fast-paced shouter; things slow down in order to display a more somber tone on 'Rusted Guns of Milan', a slow tale of sexual failure driven by the wonderfully steady, self-assured backing vocals, 'I know I can, I know I can' . As it progresses, the album manages to cover a broad range of subject matter, from stating the obvious ('Formed a Band') to reminiscing ('Emily Kane') and looking to the future ('Moving to L.A.'), before closing with the manic drum rolls in a story of the absurd ('18,000 Lira'). The highlight of the album is the band's signature track, the simplistic but genius single 'Modern Art', which again uses the band's winning formula of a repetitive, singable chorus, which here is “modern art makes me want to rock out!”. The lyrics manage to display the band's connection with art brilliantly, serenaded by the murderous shrieks in the background which slots in perfectly. There's not a bad song to be found here, all of these songs are indeed winners, perhaps the only minor quibble is the omission of the band's live anthem, 'Top of the Pops', however, the songs collected here succeed on their own in presenting Art Brut to the nation and summing up what they're all about.

Expect big things from this band, I'm sure it won't be long until Art Brut break the Top 40 and do indeed make it to Top of the Pops. Be assured, this is generation-defining stuff - this album will change your life. Forget Arcadia and the Libertines, tear down your Bloc Party posters and abandon the retro-revival acts that wallow in the past, you're looking at a new movement altogether; one which isn't to be missed.